Yesterday my son had surgery. A tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (TNA in medical jargon). A fairly simple procedure in the realm of surgeries. I had mine taken out when I was around 8 and vaguely remember it as not being that bad of an experience. I think I got some new toys out of it. So I was familiar with what was going to happen.
It also so happens that my wife is a PACU nurse at the hospital where he was having surgery so our son had actually been back in the surgery wing plenty of times. He knew what everything looked like already. It was a fun place to go, not some scary, unknown thing. We were just going to Mommy’s work.
And while everyone who works at the hospital are consummate professionals and do their best at all times with all patients, there is no denying that our son was going to receive an extra bit of love and care. People only tangentially related to the surgery (or not at all) kept stopping by our room before the surgery to chat with my wife and check on our son. “I saw you playing with your friends on Facebook this weekend!”
As it was, it was just about as an ideal situation to be in. Minor surgery, close relationships with everyone involved, at my wife’s hospital. The odds were stacked in our favor. But you know what happened when I watched my child being rolled away?
My heart bottomed out. I was scared. I was anxious.
Earlier, when he and I were in the room together alone, I hugged him as tight as I possibly could.
Even though it was only a minor surgery and the likelihood of anything happening remote, ultimately I had to put my child’s well being in the hands of another. We tee’d it up as best we could – prepped our son, selecting the best medical team, hospital, etc. – but someone else was going to take the swing. I had no control of the situation. All my education, all my hard work, discipline, and training meant nothing in this moment. My son, my most precious thing in the world, was on his own. There was nothing that I could do for him in that moment.
But control of any situation is largely an illusion. We actually control so little in our lives. We feel as though we are masters of vast domains, but the reality is that we really control very little.
We can’t control our environment. The weather, geography, the stock market, everything is out of our hands. We can’t control other people. People either love us or or fear us on their own terms. We can’t control our own bodies at times. Sickness, disease, accidents all rob us of that illusion.
All we can control is how we approach each day. Each morning we have a choice on whether we meet the day with an openness or bitterness. We can be optimistic or cynical. Choose hope or despair. We get to pick the attitude we use. That’s about it.
It doesn’t matter if it’s watching jurors walk back into the deliberation room or watching your child being rolled into surgery, all you can do is decide to face what may come with hope and courage.
The surgery went quickly and all was fine. My wife went back into the PACU and stayed with him while he woke up. He was scared of course, and confused, but he soldiered through it. Before the surgery, he kept saying he wanted to keep his tonsils. Now he was glad they’re gone because they made him sick.
We’re home now. Our little boy a bit weak and small, like a baby bird with a broken wing. But he’s on the mend. We’re eating ice cream, building Lego sets, playing Crossy Road, and snuggling in couch forts.
These things I can control. I can smile and play and help keep his mind off of any pain he might feel. Tomorrow will be another day, full of things I can’t control.
But for the moment…